Head-to-Head: 2019 NBA Awards predictions
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Ahead (no pun intended) of the 2018-19 NBA season, NBA PH bloggers Marco Benitez and Enzo Flojo went back-and-forth with their predictions as to who will take home some of the league's major awards. Agree or disagree with their selections? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Regular Season MVP
Enzo Flojo: I cannot wait till the new NBA season begins, Marco. There are a helluva lot of things to look forward to… watching LeBron in Purple & Gold, seeing the Warriors go for another title, and, come on let’s be honest, James Harden repeating as the MVP.
Marco Benitez: Hard to argue with that Enz.Harden’s usage rate is off the charts and the Rockets will probably land top 3 in the West. But for me the story has to be #LABron. If the King manages to steer the Lakers to the playoffs - and I do think Magic has surrounded him with enough talent to crack the bottom half - it would mean not just an almost nightly near-triple double performance, but making players like JaVale, Lance, and Rondo look good again. That for me is enough to bag another MVP plum.
Rookie of the Year
Marco Benitez: Mark Cuban will be smiling once again this season. Not only has he finally gotten DeAndre Jordan for the Mavs, but more so because he has one of the most NBA-ready rookies in Luka Doncic. Doncic will surely have a big impact and will play major minutes as Dallas’ lead ball-handler. At 6’8” and with the skill set he possesses, not to mention his passing wizardry, he and Dennis Smith Jr. will be one of the most exciting backcourts to watch. I’m going all in on Doncic, and barring injury, he’s my ROY.
Enzo Flojo: Love love love Doncic! His being dominant in the Euroleague is gonna do him well in Dallas, and judging by the early returns in the preseason, I think the kid certainly has what it takes to make a big splash for the Mavs! Of course, as good as the Slovenian sensation is, I can’t help but think that Deandre Ayton is gonna be the most fearsome rookie in this entire class. I’m not sure to whom we can compare the 7’1 behemoth, but his size and versatile skill-set make him such a potentially franchise-changing talent for the Suns. Odds are, he’ll be the ROY this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Enzo Flojo: This being a contract year for him and with the drama in San Antonio finally behind him, Kawhi Leonard should see a terrific resurgence and, once again, be among the elite defenders in the league. I think he’s had way more than enough time to completely heal up, and I believe he has the deep motivation to really make an impact this season for Toronto. I think once he regains his true form, he should be a cinch to be the DPOY by season’s end. Where he ends up next year, however, is another conversation altogether!
Marco Benitez: I love the Spurs as an organization, so what Kawhi did to them this past season just simply prevents me from rooting for him as DPOY. That being said, I’m going for the NBA’s Twitter savant himself, Joel Embiid, to take this award. The Sixers are looking more and more like a Finals contender in the East (especially now that LeBron is in LA), offensively and defensively. And Embiid is going to be their anchor on both ends. Assuming he stays healthy, he’s definitely my top pick for the award (one he probably also would have won last year had he played more than 63 games).
Most Improved Player
Enzo Flojo: I was willing to roll the dice on San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray, but his recent ACL injury no longer makes him a viable option for this award at this point. That’s why I’m going with the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram. The 6’9" forward took a big leap last year, averaging 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game -- all major increases from his rookie season -- and I suspect we'll see an even bigger rise from him in 2018-2019, especially with LeBron James running the show and attracting much of the defensive pressure. Ingram has drawn comparisons to the likes of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the past, so don't be shocked if the 21-year-old will turn a lot more heads for the Lake Show this coming season!
Marco Benitez: I like the Ingram pick. Hardly has there been a case where LeBron has not made his talented teammates better because of his willingness to give up the ball and just his overall basketball IQ (which is off the charts). But from one current Laker, I’m going with a former Laker to win MIP - Julius Randle. After being let go by the Lakers last season, he will now run alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans. With Davis attracting so much attention from opposing defenses, Randle - who will play with an LA-sized chip on his shoulder - will now have the opportunity to make a huge impact on a playoff contender. Randle is a gifted athlete, and a beast on the boards. If he can develop a reliable 3-point shot, he could definitely be the missing piece the Pelicans need to go deep in the Western playoff race.
Coach of the Year
Marco Benitez: Brad Stevens and Mike D’Antoni are old news. Boston and Houston, with their rosters, are expected to contend in each of their conferences. This season, Mike Budenholzer, now with a talent-laden Milwaukee team, finally unlocks their potential with his offensive and defensive system (he’s a Coach Pop disciple), and unleashes Giannis Antetokounmpo as the next transcendent star of the league. This is why he’s got my vote for Coach of the Year.
Enzo Flojo: Ooooh, Budz is an awesome pick here, but I’m a huge fan of Brad Stevens, who’s sure to steer the Cs back into the NBA Finals after what should be a very dominant run through the Eastern Conference. We already how well Boston played last year even sans star forward Gordon Hayward, and I feel they’ll be even more fearsome this season with a full complement of talents at Stevens’s disposal. Kyrie will be Kyrie, Hayward and Al Horford should be All-Stars, while guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will complete what could be one of the best quintets in all of basketball. Put those guys on a Brad Stevens-coached team and watch them glitter like gold!
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